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Power to the people: 5 trends impacting on workforce management in retail

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The retail landscape has changed significantly over the last decade. In particular, the growth of omni-channel retail and globalisation has meant that retailers have needed to adopt newer supply chain processes and innovate both online and in-store to meet consumer demand. These changes are also having a knock-on effect on retailers’ workforces, which has meant that newer requirements are being asked of them; if retailers are to survive in this new world it is critical to understand how they can manage their workforce more effectively.

Globalisation

According to recent research from Deloitte, 66% of EMEA-based retailers now have operations globally. This has created a challenge for retail bosses who have a workforce spread across the world. They must manage their workforce in a way that meets the ethos of their brand, whilst adhering to the different labour agreements in all countries that they operate in. Advanced workforce management solutions can help retailers to effectively manage their employees, whist also ensuring they are compliant with local labour agreements. Critical to the success of any workforce management deployment is to work with a supplier that offers true global support and is adaptable to variations in local working practices.

Mobility

The rise in smartphones has meant many shoppers often have better product knowledge than the sales associates serving them. In an attempt to readdress the balance, retailers have started equipping sales associates with mobile devices to enhance in-store service levels.

However, mobility can also benefit workforce management practices, as retailers can provide employees with greater access to information about their work lives. Using a mobile device, employees can have greater visibility over their working hours and submit annual leave requests. Additionally, employees can use their devices to access actionable tasks, without having to leave the shop floor. Making this information accessible not only drives workforce productivity but also increases loyalty, as employees gain more control of their working lives. In some cases, such processes have led to reductions in employee turnover of as high as 35%.

Store managers can also benefit from through being able to gain easy access to day-to-day information, such as staffing levels data and instructions from head office, whist on the shop floor. In the past, most of their time would be spent in the back office, rather than interacting with customers and employees. Furthermore, regional managers are benefitting from increased mobility, as they can quickly access store KPIs and other business data without necessarily needing to visit a store in person. This, in turn, can boost productivity as they can spend less time on the road.

Scheduling and store management

Traditionally, the use of workforce management solutions in grocery stores had been confined to the checkout because of the data-rich nature of the position. However, retailers are starting to use them across departments to facilitate employee multi-skilling across the store. Omni-channel retailing has diminished the traditional supply chain silos between online and in-store shopping. Consequently, it has given rise to new processes, such as in-store picking, ‘Click & Collect’ and online/in-store returns. This has created more pressure on retailers to ensure that they always have the right staff, in the right place, at the right time, in order to meet these new service requests as they come in. At the same time, store managers must also do this without increasing operating costs within the workforce. The latest workforce management solutions can enable retailers to do just this.

Such tools are also now being used by retailers to transmit requests, such as range changes and planograms, from head office to individual stores. Using mobile technology, stores can verify changes by simply sending images back to HQ from their mobile devices, instead of having regional managers visit to manually confirm them.

Real-time operations

Even today, in-store workforce management and scheduling are activities that are recorded manually. In addition, schedules that instruct employees on daily tasks are still being pinned to staff room walls at the beginning of each week! However, due to the advent of omni-channel retail, scheduling and responding to customer requests needs to happen in near real-time.

Workforce management technology can enable store managers to communicate faster with staff and respond much quicker to changing business demands. For example: when staff are absent or unavailable in-store, managers can quickly broadcast shifts or assign tasks via mobile messages. This can help ensure productivity and service levels are maintained.

Cloud

Deploying a new workforce management solution could be seen as a big burden to retailers IT departments, who are already under pressure to support other areas of the business. However, we are seeing an increasing number of retailers look to deploy such solutions from the cloud, with their supplier taking on its management.

This allows retailers to mitigate the operational risk of IT services, meaning that they can remain entirely focused on shaping workforce management process; the responsibility of configuring these processes then falls entirely on the software provider. Migrating to the cloud can also broadly reduce technical skill and resource constraints on the IT department. Further to this, cloud software providers also ensure that the technology is continuously kept updated and aligned to meet ever changing business needs.

Retail is about people and supporting the brand promise. Ultimately, it will be those retailers that adapt their workforce management processes to meet the requirements of the changing consumer that will reap the rewards today’s omni-channel world.

Published on Thursday 20 March by Editorial Assistant

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